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City councilors pose with members of UNITY's Youth Leadership Program on Tuesday.

North Adams Council Asked to Support Skate Park

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Brittany Shephard, a member of the Youth Leadership Program, tells councilors of some of the issues the group's concerned about.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City councilors quizzed members of UNITY's Youth Leadership Program on Tuesday on their hopes for a skateboard park and applauded their efforts.

The group attended the meeting after two hours of talk with Mayor Richard Alcombright and City Councilor Michael Boland on a variety of issues, including a commission for youth.

One of Alcombright's stated goals in last year's mayoral campaign was to give the city's youth a voice in local government. To that end, he had invited the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition group to meet with him and then make a presentation at the council's regular meeting.

"I was very excited to have these folks come and visit us and actually become part of city government," said Alcombright. Boland commended the group: "The way they articulated their ideas was very impressive."

Some 20 teens attended the gathering and of all the issues, the long-desired skateboard park rose to the top.

"We talked about some of the issues we thought were important to the community, such as low-income housing, and possibly a teen center," said program member Brittany Shepard. "But the one that we put most of our energy and time and passion into, really, is the interest in the skate park."

Shephard continued that the mayor had charged them with researching the location, liabilities, safety and other considerations, including ways to measure and solicit community support and address concerns.

The councilors evinced support for a park, which various community members have tried to make a reality over the years with little progress. Nearby towns have parks, noted Councilor Michael Bloom.

"I have a 12-year-old I bring regularly to Williamstown's and Adams' skateboard parks," he said, adding that policing and safety considerations have to be addressed. "All that plays into the decision making so that older residents are as happy as the younger residents."

Councilor Marie Harpin said she and later Gail Grandchamp had advocated for a skate park years before at the Houghton Street playground to no avail.

"I could not get any support from people in the community to go along with a skate board [park]," said Harpin. "I hope you have better luck than I did."

Shepard said the program had done a simple survey some time ago that found broad support for a skate park among the city's youth; top locations were behind the Big Y and Noel Field.

She hoped that the council would be open to group's input: "Having a youth voice is good but having a council voice is good, too."

Councilor Gailanne Cariddi suggested that the General Government Committee, of which she is chairman, begin looking into the establishment of a youth commission to provide a more formal voice for the city's youth.

Alcombright agreed, saying, "I think it could aid in the progress and really legitimize the group."

In other business:
  • The Finance Committee reported its discussion on Jan. 25 on how a sewer-user fee could offset rising costs of the Hoosac Quality Water District currently paid through property taxes and be used to update the city's aging sewer infrastructure. The issue was referred for further discussion with the mayor's office,along with a request for more information and will be brought back to the council March 9. Nearly 5,000 homes are connected to the waste-water district.
  • The council approved the mayor's reappointment of David Lamarre to the Licensing Board.
  • Councilor Gailanne Cariddi passed on information from local attorney Richard Taskin that the city's juvenile curfew ordinance had been brought up in a recent case in reference to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that invalidated a similar ordinance in Lowell. The ordinance was referred for review by the Public Safety Committee at her suggestion.
  • Harpin reminded residents to return their city census forms and Councilor Lisa Blackmer said the public was invited to the Community Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 6:30.
  • Alcombright urged patience during the reconstruction of the Hadley Overpass, particularly since work has stretched into the evening hours over the past two weeks. He said will be meeting with state Department of Transportation and Maxymillion Inc. officials to discuss the matter on Monday.
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